Unlocking ABM Growth: 3 Keys to Marketing & Sales Alignment

Account-based marketing (ABM) can be a game-changer for the go-to-market strategy of B2B companies.

When done right, ABM can pave the way for improved brand recall, greater prospect engagement and increased lead inquiries from audiences that matter. In fact, a recent LinkedIn study showed that B2B buyers are 19% more likely to accept a connection and 15% more likely to open a sales-focused LinkedIn InMail if they’ve already been exposed to a company’s marketing.1

So, how can you apply ABM to help drive growth and support your strategic goals?

In our experience, alignment – between your marketing and sales teams, and between your marketing goals and your strategic priorities – is a top factor for ABM success.

We believe ABM hinges on identifying, prioritizing and executing against a list of target accounts or account segments, so it’s pivotal for marketing and sales teams to agree on which accounts to target, how to engage them and what success looks like.

We’ve seen ABM applied with success in businesses across the Summit portfolio in sectors ranging from healthcare tech to financial services to B2B SaaS. In our work with portfolio company teams, we’ve identified three keys that we believe help achieve marketing-sales alignment and unlock ABM growth:

1. Clear segmentation

Reliable data is a key part of any segmentation strategy, and we’ve seen teams use data to segment in creative ways: sourcing TAM data from prospect conversations; identifying priority accounts and segments based on historical close rates; and even mapping a market based on existing relationships and connections.

In our experience, the most effective marketing and sales teams work together to apply this data to help define target account lists, account segments, ideal customer profiles and personas. It’s important for all of these factors to be both actionable and operational. Sales teams must be equipped to effectively source and work contacts; marketing teams need to be positioned to successfully target and engage accounts with the tools at their disposal. This interplay is pivotal for driving collaboration across teams, increasing transparency and improving account interactions with your organization.

2. High-impact messaging

Clarity and simplicity play a key role in high-impact messaging. Marketing and sales should work together on an ongoing basis to create, refine and iterate on value messaging that’s used with the account lists, segments and personas described above. Product marketing, proprietary research (e.g., focus groups, interviews) and branding can and should play a part in this process, and we believe sales team input is invaluable and essential.

On occasion, we see companies rely on overly inspirational, benefits-forward language; this approach can obscure what the company actually does. Especially for B2B companies with complex offerings, the more that messaging can bring out product differentiation and its relevance for key segments, the clearer the overall meaning and the higher likelihood of commercial engagement from key audiences.2

3. Outcome-based measurement

With so many tasks and potentially misleading data points available from ABM programs, we strongly encourage teams to measure for outcomes rather than activities. We recommend that teams create feedback loops on their programs by tracking clear quantitative and qualitative measurements, which can range from A/B testing in advertising campaigns to prospect responses during 1:1 sales meetings. Also important: measurement should avoid the “attribution battle.” Wins, losses and learnings are shared between marketing, sales and all parts of the organization.

On the quantitative side, we often see teams categorizing measurements across the entire customer lifecycle, thus tracking how accounts move from awareness to conversion to retention and referral over time. Most importantly, marketing and sales teams should align on what the true “north star” metrics are – and hold themselves accountable to them.

Sometimes, ABM can hit a deadlock. Maybe its impact isn’t clear. Maybe it’s not driving the results the team thought it would. Or maybe the team can’t see how accounts are actually interacting with marketing. In our experience, revisiting the points above can help address any misalignment, improve your ABM strategy and position your go-to-market for success.

As B2B teams become more collaborative and the lines between functions become blurrier, we believe it’s more important than ever to unify the go-to-market strategy through tight alignment between marketing and sales. A unified approach to ABM can help organizations cultivate stronger relationships with target accounts, ultimately driving growth and competitive advantage in the market.

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Related Experience

The content herein reflects the views of Summit Partners and is intended for executives and operators considering partnering with Summit Partners. For a complete list of Summit Partners portfolio companies, please click here.

1 The ‘circles of doom’: Quantifying the misalignment of B2B marketing and sales (September 28, 2023)

2 "The World's Simplest Positioning Definition" by FletchPMM (February 28, 2024)

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